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Gabonese President Is In Spanish Clinic

Gabonese President Omar Bongo is in a Spanish clinic. Spain says he is "very ill." The government in Libreville says the 73-year-old is just resting.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos says President Bongo has been at the private Quiron hospital in Barcelona for more than two weeks. He told reporters that the Gabonese leader is "very ill."

Earlier this month, President Bongo's government announced that, because of his wife's death in March, he would be "momentarily suspending his activities" as head of state for the first time since taking power in 1967.

But the government in Libreville is rejecting Spanish media reports that the president is suffering from cancer.

In a nationwide broadcast on state radio and television late Thursday, presidential spokesman Robert Orango Berre said Mr. Bongo is in Spain for a few days of rest following the "intense emotional shock" of his wife's death.

Berre says President Bongo is at the hospital in Barcelona for a complete medical check-up so as to regain his health and return to Gabon to continue his activities as soon as possible.

Berre says that contrary to the allegations of some media, the president has not undergone any surgical procedures. Berre says these media allegations are meant to undermine the spirit of the Gabonese people in order to destabilize their thinking.

Like any human being, Berre says even chiefs of state can be temporarily affected by personal hardship. And like any human being, he says President Bongo is taking this period to rest.

Berre says the president is being kept up to date on important issues while state institutions ensure the continuity of government operations.

Gabon's constitution says Senate Leader Rose Francine Rogombe would take power as acting president in the event of the president's death. She would have 90 days to organize new elections in which she would be ineligible to run.

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